Relations between the European Union and the Kingdom of Eswatini are cordial, but the EU is critical of the democratisation process within the country. During the regular political dialogues and direct engagements with the King, the EU has called for democratisation and for the implementation of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of association, assembly and expression.
The political dialogue, held once a year, is provided for under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement and is held to review all specific political issues of mutual concern including developments concerning the respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance.
Overall, the main task of the Delegation of the European Union to Eswatini is to implement the Cotonou Partnership Agreement linking the EU Member States to the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries including Eswatini. The central objective of this partnership is to help Eswatini reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty through sustainable development, the progressive integration into the world economy and the promotion of the rule of law, democracy, human rights and good governance.
Currently, EU development assistance to Eswatini is channelled through the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) which was firmly guided by aid effectiveness principles, Eswatini’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP) and the EU Agenda for Change. The 11th EDF, with an indicative allocation of €62m (approx. 1 billion SZL), began in 2015 and will be implemented until 2020. Its two focal sectors are agriculture and social protection. The PRSAP attributes high importance to agriculture and food security. The Government underscored its commitment to social protection through the 2005 Constitution and the Disability Policy, which it finalised in 2013.
Between 2009 and 2014, the EU contributed almost €120 million (approx. 1.2 billion SZL) through the 10th EDF to boost Eswatini's development initiatives including the support to the sugar sector. The 10th EDF supported multiple sectors including education, health, agriculture, infrastructure development, strengthening of governance, democracy and human rights, institutional capacity building, trade facilitation as well as support to help the country improve access to clean and potable water.
Of note is that the EU, through its support to education, helped Eswatini to achieve universal access to primary education through free primary education. Under this programme, the EU paid for all Grade One pupils in the country which saw the country achieving a 97 percent enrolment rate at primary school.
Over and above the active partnership with the Government of Eswatini, the EU Delegation to Eswatini also works hand in hand with civil society where the EU has contributed millions of Euros to help support and strengthen the work of civil society organizations particularly in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
(1) Political and policy priorities for the EU in Eswatini:
- foster political relations between Eswatini and the EU;
- promote good governance, transparency, accountability, judicial independence, the rule of law and strengthening of security;
- contribute to a sustained poverty alleviation effort and social stability through inclusive growth, income generation and redistribution, rural development and environmental sustainability;
- support the integration in the multilateral trade system, including through an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU following the signing on 10 June 2016 of the EPA between the EU and six SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries, including Eswatini. The EPA is now being ratified by the signatories and should enter into force on 1 October 2016.
(2) The agriculture sector has considerable potential in Eswatini due to a favourable climate and abundant soils. The EU will seek to address these challenges with the objective of promoting environmentally sound agricultural practices, eradicating food insecurity and contributing to sustainable economic growth.
(3) Social protection programmes have already been supported by the EU, in particular those addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, there is lack of coordination between different stakeholder and limited implementation capacity. The various social protection schemes would gain in efficiency with more transparent targeting, rationalised delivery mechanisms, robust management information systems, comprehensive grievance procedures and coherent monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Programmes on social protection will seek to address these challenges with the objective of providing a higher level of social security and access to essential services.
(4) EU-Eswatini cooperation aims at poverty reduction and is focused on human development (health and education), water and sanitation. The EU-Eswatini Country Strategy Paper for 2008-2013, funded under the 10th European Development Fund, had a total budget of €63m.
Since Eswatini does not qualify for general budget support, the EU strategy focused on improving delivery of basic social services. Such interventions were especially crucial in times of fiscal crisis and austerity to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable segments of society.
Eswatini was also a major beneficiary of Commission funding in support of the adaptation of its sugar industry in line with the phasing out of the favourable Sugar Protocol and received a total allocation of €129m for the period 2006-2013